Welfare and contribution of draft animals to the transformation of the agricultural sector
Draft animals were in common use in Mesopotamia before 3000 BC for farm work and for pulling wheeled vehicles. Their use spread to the rest of the world over the following 2,500 years. Despite the enormous technological upheavals of the 20th century, both in agriculture and in many other sectors of the global economy, animal draft has remained important in many countries, even though is very old. The draft animals enable people especially in some of the poorest communities to increase their incomes and productivity significantly in the agricultural sector (plowing, sowing, weeding and transportation). These animals simplify the circulation, distribution and commercialization of agricultural products but this benefit is often compromised by their poor welfare i.e. how they cope with the conditions in which they live. An animal is in a good state of welfare if as indicated by scientific evidence it is healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe, able to express innate behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. The common problems are poor animal health, nutrition, overwork and poor harness materials. Studies show that simple interventions mainly community engagement in humane education, awareness and policy enforcement can improve draft animal‘s welfare thus bringing huge transformations in the agricultural sector both for the animals and people.
Keywords: draft animals, global economy, agricultural sector, income, animal welfare, interventions, transformations